Nearly four months of pain, heartbreak and difficulty eventually led Griffen Ives back to where he felt most comfortable — the baseball mound.
And for the Marshall County High School junior pitcher, an inning of work in Tuesday's game against Hickman County High School meant so much more than just a return to the diamond.
It allowed him a chance to be back with his friends and to play the game he loved. But most of all, it meant the opportunity to play in honor of Preston Cope, a former Marshall County baseball player and one of two people who died in the school's shooting on Jan. 23.
Ives was among the 20 people who was shot in the school's commons when a 15-year-old gunman entered the school before classes started on that January day that will live in infamy in Marshall County. A bullet went into his back and out of his chest, nearing his heart. Within 48 hours of being airlifted to Vanderbilt Memorial Hospital, Ives underwent two surgeries.
The junior spent two to three weeks in the hospital, he said. After two to three months of physical therapy, he was told he could rejoin the baseball team.
"I've been really positive about everything. I knew I would get my chance to play again," he said. "It's been difficult. It was a bad situation, but I got through it."
The injury Ives suffered was significant, according to his head coach, Rob McDonald. "It was as bad as someone could be injured and live," he said.
So it came as a shock to McDonald to see Ives return to practice April 20.
"He provided a real spark for us," McDonald said. "None of us could believe he was back as quickly as he was. Even just in practice, him being there was big for us."
Ives himself was surprised he was able to return to the baseball team as soon as he did. His doctors initially told him it would be by the end of summer when he would regain full strength.
He's still not where he wants to be, but said he feels around 95 percent right now.
That 95 percent was enough for McDonald to give him a chance in Tuesday's game against Hickman County.
"It was crazy being back. Everybody was really supportive," Ives said of his first outing of the year, in which he pitched an inning and allowed just one run, even striking out a batter.
McDonald said it didn't matter if Ives came out and walked five guys in a row. He called it a win and simply "remarkable" that he was out there in the first place.
The end of the season is closing in for the Marshals, and while McDonald doesn't know what he can expect from Ives for the rest of the season, he knows he has brought a positive atmosphere to the clubhouse.
"What he did ... coming back from that injury, that showed a ton of toughness and perseverance," McDonald said. "That's about as tough as it gets."
Ives said he just wants to try to produce and help the seniors close out the season. He's not expecting to start on the mound, but there is one thing you can count on him doing.
"Playing for Preston is my main concern this year. That will stick with us all season," he said.